Leaders cast vision, set goals, and mobilize people and resources towards those ends. But Christian leadership is distinct in that our number one objective in that process is always to remain in a state Ignatius of Loyola referred to as indifference.
By indifference, he does not mean apathy or disinterest. He simply means we must become indifferent to anything but the will of God. Ignatius taught that the degree to which we are open to any outcome or answer from God is the degree to which we are ready to really hear what God has to say. If we are clutching or overly attached to one outcome versus another, we won’t hear God clearly. Our spiritual ears will be deafened by the racket of our disordered loves, fears, and attachments. In such a state, it is almost a forgone conclusion that we will confuse our will with God’s will.
Ignatius considered this state of indifference to be spiritual freedom. We place our lives in God’s hands and trust him for the outcome.
Arriving at this place of interior indifference and trusting that God’s will is good—no matter the outcome—is no small task. We are attached to all kinds of secondary things—titles, positions, honors, places, persons, and security, and the opinions of others. When these attachments are excessive, they become disordered attachments, or disordered loves, that push God out of the center of our lives.
What this means for me is that I pray for indifference so I can pray the prayer of indifference. Every day, I pray for the grace to honestly say, Father, I am indifferent to every outcome except your will. I want nothing more or less than your desire for what I do as a leader. And so I pray for both daily. If I fail to engage in this necessary heart preparation—praying the prayer for indifference and the prayer of indifference—I run the risk of missing God’s voice completely.
Jesus teaches us that indifference, the key to true obedience, must be learned, struggled-for, and prayed for. We see this in Gethsemane as he prayed three times. We also learn:
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears…Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Hebrews 5:7-8).
If it took falling with his face to the ground and great struggle for the Son of God to submit himself to the will of the Father, how can we expect that it will require any less of us?